Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teens take to microphone to address state fair misbehavior

TAMPA — Sarah Taylor was at the Florida State Fair on Feb. 7, which was a "student day." While she was there, she got into an argument with some teenagers.

As the sun went down and teens started running wild, she got separated from her friends. She was then surrounded by a group of people who started attacking her.

"I got hit with an umbrella, a baton, some feet, some fists," Taylor said. "I don't know what the rest was."

Taylor, a senior at Middleton High School, suffered damage to her nose that might require surgery, and she said she still has blurry vision. She and her mother joined about 150 other people Thursday night at an NAACP meeting at Ambassadors of Christ Inc. Temple of Prayer to discuss ways to curb annual outbursts of mayhem on Hillsborough County's student day at the fair.

Taylor's mother, Sonnita Tubbins, said authorities need to exercise better security at next year's fair — or get rid of student day, in which kids are given free tickets and the day off from school. "She never would have went to that fair if she hadn't had that free ticket," Tubbins said.

Thursday's get-together was one of several planned discussions about the first Friday of this year's fair, in which, deputies said, hundreds of teenagers fought, ran wild and caused chaos. This meeting, the second, emphasized hearing from children and teens.

They were asked to speak at the start of the meeting and to answer two questions: What were the problems at this year's fair, and what did they think was the solution?

Latasha Washington, a student at Jefferson High School, said she was at this year's fair and was scared when fights started to break out near her. "I had to grab my nephew and start running as fast as I could," she said.

Wildens Cajuste, a senior at Steinbrenner High School, said the answer could be more police officers or more family present at the fair. But he stopped short of saying that student day should be canceled.

"Student day at the fair has been going on before I was even born. … It's been going on since my brothers and big sisters, they're all at college now," Cajuste said. "It's been going on forever."

Later, adults weighed in as well. Some said parents need to be more aware of their children's lives. Others said there needed to be a larger police presence. One suggestion was to create a "safe house" where children could call their parents if other teenagers started acting up.

Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, who spoke at the meeting, said policies can be discussed, but his goal is to not have to eject some teenagers and arrest others. "I don't want to arrest kids because when we arrest them, we create a record which, even as a minor thing, it causes you a world of problems," he said.

Florida State Fair Authority executive director Charles Pesano said the fair's goal is to be a family-friendly event. Its planners will continue to work with the Sheriff's Office and the Hillsborough County School Board on strategies to avoid chaos, he said.

"It hurts us inside, and I say that truthfully, when things don't go well," Pesano said.

Teens take to microphone to address state fair misbehavior 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Watch: Gorilla dances like a 'maniac' in kiddie pool


    Zola, a gorilla who resides at the Dallas Zoo, has gone viral after showing off his dance moves.
  2. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  3. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  4. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  5. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]